Guest author, Ryan Daly, the Content Manager at ConsumerAffairs offers advice to solar service providers in South Africa in the blog article below. Having read this and seen what ConsumerAffairs offers the US market, we most certainly need a platform of service providers with customer reviews in South Africa and other emerging markets. The only local tool I found is Hello Peter, which is a popular South African go-to for all kinds of products and services. If you know of any platforms where we can find and review renewable energy companies, please let us know.
SOUTH AFRICA SOLAR PROVIDERS TAKE NOTE: CUSTOMER SERVICE IS KEY DRIVER IN U.S. SOLAR MARKET
By Ryan Daly
Although compared to much of the world the South African solar industry is still in its infancy, the industry is poised to take off over the coming decade. The high cost of new coal energy, an ailing and overworked power grid and an executive commitment to adding renewable energy resources pair with unprecedented availability – South Africa gets more solar radiation than almost anywhere else in the world – have the country poised to embrace solar at an unprecedented rate. But as it stands poised on the edge of a major boom, the South African solar industry should take note that customer service is the key driver of growth in a similar solar market, the U.S.
Last year, the solar industry supplied as much as 40% of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S., and according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, roughly 20,000 MW of solar capacity is forecast to come online over the next two years, doubling the country’s existing solar capacity.
Although most of those gains have come from grid-level investments, residential installations are still a big growth driver in the industry. But with oil and gas at their lowest price in the recent decade, solar faces increased competition from traditional energy providers and inertia from a less-motivated consumer base. And although residential costs have dropped more than 45% since 2010, solar installation still represents a significant investment on the part of the consumer.
So how are U.S. solar companies maintaining strong growth? By focusing on customer service to set the U.S. solar industry apart from other utility providers.
78% of consumers take at least a quick look at reviews prior to making purchasing decisions. If a company has nothing but negative reviews, or no reviews at all, consumers may head to a company with a better reputation.
Partnering with online consumer review sites like Yelp! or ConsumerAffairs.com lets solar providers tackle several marketing needs at the same time. First, they encourage multi-channel review posting. Companies don’t want to put their eggs in one online review basket, so spreading reviews around to diverse and relevant sites helps improve the overall Internet presence of the company. When companies provide consumers with multiple options for posting reviews, it helps improve the overall review quantity available.
Second, they can help drive pre-qualified leads to your company. Consumers searching queries like “best solar provider” or “best residential solar power” are looking to buy. Nearly 8 million consumers searching high-purchase-intent queries land on our site every month, and seeing a list of 4- or 5-star reviews next to your company’s name gives consumers the confidence they need to make the switch to solar.